Deanna Lentini is the founder of Fix the 6ix, a non-profit organization that launched in early 2016. Spearheading this project with Deanna are fellow York University students. They worked to create one-of-a-kind fundraising initiatives that do not cost donors a dime, but also make an important, positive impact amongst Toronto’s homeless population.
Between the ReGiftcard program, which encourages people to donate their semi-used giftcards to people living in poverty, and the 100 for the Homies initiative, collecting free pizza coupons after Toronto Raptors games for people who experience homelessness to use, Deanna and her classmates have brought the city back to its roots.
Despite a busy school schedule, Deanne spends upwards of 20 hours a week on this project but for her, it’s worth every moment.
Fix the 6ix has reintroduced us to Toronto the good. Here’s why:
1. Fix the 6ix was created in 2016 by students at York University. What was the inspiration behind this project?
I was inspired to start this project because homelessness hurts me deeply and I know that I have the ability to do something about it. When I was a little girl, every time I passed by someone who was homeless, I would ask my dad for change to give away. I continued giving away my own loonies and toonies until I was in my third year of university. Then, I thought of a way to give more while spending less. I began giving away Tim Hortons giftcards to individuals I would meet on the street.
I started playing with this idea, and it eventually turned into the ReGiftcard program, which accepts donations of partly used giftcards to purchase goods for shelters or donate to people directly. Eventually, I wanted to make the ReGiftcard program part of a bigger movement. I called it Fix the 6ix and everything came together.
The ReGiftcard program is especially intriguing to me – maybe because I have so many gift ards with a few dollars on them!
2. What has the success been with this project since Fix the 6ix took off?
Toronto has been so responsive to this program, with over $3,500 in giftcard credit collected since we launched on March 7, 2016.
3. The 100 for the Homies program seems to be off to a great start already, with over 13,700 Pizza Pizza coupons from Raptors fans already donated! What was the process like to get support from fans to bring this program to the forefront?
The fans have been outstanding with their support of the 100 for the Homies program. The success of the initiative is attributed entirely to the generosity of their ticket donations. Having 13,787 fans donate their tickets over just a few weeks last season speaks volumes. We have regular game attendees seeking us out after games to donate their ticket!
4. What kind of attention has Fix the 6ix garnered since it launched in 2016?
We’ve been incredibly lucky to have had a warm welcome from the city since our project went live on social media on February 21, 2016. Right away, we were invited to Metro Morning on CBC Radio One to speak on the project. Then, one thing lead to another and the word began to spread. So far, we have been covered by radio stations, television networks, newspapers and blogs. We are so thankful to see that the city believes in what we do.
5. What happens to Fix the 6ix when the school year’s done? Will students continue to work on the project while not in class?
We just had a great summer collecting giftcard donations in storefronts and summer festivals across Toronto. In total we collected $1,183.39 donated on 119 active cards.
6. What has been the best part of the Fix the 6ix journey since the project launched?
The best part of this journey for me is feeling so filled up with happiness as I watch Fix the 6ix do good work and grow. Getting to see my little idea actually materialize and launch has been a dream come true.
7. What has been the toughest lesson the Fix the 6ix team has had to learn since launch day?
The project doesn’t work unless you do.
8. What do you think made the launch of Fix the 6ix so successful?
I’ve been told that our movement has been catching attention because it is inspiring. Members are all young people who have school on our minds, but still, we are trying to make Toronto a better place. Our project offers people a way to give back to their city that was not only easy, but also entirely free for donors. That kind of innovation is something that catches on quick!
That being said, the project didn’t just get up and start walking on its own one day. A lot of credit goes to the Faculty of Health at York University for a $500 seed funding grant, to our sponsors Oceanic Inc, StickerYou and Beacon Design, and to our photographer Adrian Autencio for believing in the pilot.
9. What would you tell other 20-somethings who are thinking about launching a project of their own?
If you feel in your gut that your idea is something special and something good, don’t brush it aside. Run your idea by people that you trust. I found that the more I talked about the idea to my friends and family, the more real it became to me. Once I had feedback and talked about it enough, I could start planning because I believed in it, and I knew other people did too.
10. Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Live the story you want to tell and make this beautiful world a better one!